REL, Inc. teams with NYU-Poly to create lightweight, ultra durable automotive brake rotor

Jan 19, 2012
Within 12 months, NYU-Poly Associate Professor Nikhil Gupta and researchers of REL, Inc., expect to move beyond today's particle-reinforced brake rotors, such as this Matrix motorcycle rotor, to the prototype stage for a super-durable and lightweight fiber-reinforced composite for mass-market automobiles, military vehicles and heavy trucks. Credit: REL, Inc.

REL, Inc. teams with NYU-Poly to create lightweight, ultra durable automotive brake rotor

Researchers at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) and Michigan-based REL, Inc., are creating a next-generation aluminum composite brake rotor potentially weighing 60 percent less than today's cast iron rotors with triple the life expectancy.

Due to expense, today's composite brakes have been reserved for motorcycles, race cars and high-performance sports cars, but this new, fiber reinforced, metal matrix composite (MMC) brake rotor aims at the . It will be easier to manufacture, and the fiber reinforcements will provide longer life span.

The researchers also estimate that their composite rotor will shave approximately 30 pounds from a mid-size sedan — a significant advantage in an industry facing fleet a fuel economy requirement of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

REL, Inc., a developer of MMC transportation and aerospace components, received a $150,000 Phase I Small Business Innovation Research Grant from the National Science Foundation to develop the initial product design, material and manufacturing process. The company tapped the expertise of NYU-Poly Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Associate Professor Nikhil Gupta and his Composites Materials and Mechanics Lab to develop the technology for automotive application. The collaboration will result in a prototype, first-of-its-kind rotor that may revolutionize a market valued at $10 billion annually.

Manufacturers have long sought to improve the durability and performance of automotive , which are subject to tremendous temperature and pressure changes.

Gupta and REL are developing a one-piece brake rotor uniquely tailored to meet the extreme and variable temperature and loading conditions. Most of today's brake rotors are made of cast iron, which offers strength but at a cost of weight. Iron also doesn't adapt well to the demands placed on different sections of the rotor. A brake rotor has three functional zones, each of which requires a material with distinct strain and thermal properties to function optimally. Temperature and pressure changes across the rotor surface are a major cause of wear, warp and brake failure.

The team will replace the traditional rotor material with a high-temperature aluminum alloy reinforced with functionally graded ceramic particles and fibers to create a lightweight but extremely durable material that can be customized to best serve each section of the rotor.

"These functionally graded materials allow us to create the optimal composition for each part of the rotor," Gupta explained. "The hybrid material allows us to provide reinforcement where additional strength is needed, increase high-temperature performance, and minimize stress at the interfaces between the zones. Together, this should boost rotor life significantly, reducing warranty and replacement costs, and the weight savings will improve the vehicle's fuel efficiency."

"As auto companies strive to meet increasingly high efficiency and low emissions targets, there's a tremendous business opportunity in creating novel lightweight components which reduce overall vehicle weight and increase vehicle performance", said Adam Loukus, vice president of REL, Inc. "Professor Gupta is highly regarded in MMC research and analysis, and his expertise — backed by the resources of NYU-Poly — is an ideal complement to our goals for this exciting project."

"This is a valuable opportunity for our students to gain real-world business experience," Gupta added. "Working closely with the REL team, they will understand the demands of the automotive component development process."

In addition to the automotive market, the composite rotors may benefit military fleets, where up-armored vehicles operate at weights well above their design capacity. While the development of lightweight armor remains a long-term goal for the military, any weight savings on the vehicles themselves will immediately improve fleet efficiency, which can be critical to mission success where fuel delivery is difficult.

Gupta and the team at REL expect to complete a functional prototype within 12 months.

Explore further: MIT team's wireless Vital-Radio could follow breathing, heart rate at home

Related Stories

Genetic and mechanistic basis for rotor syndrome uncovered

Jan 09, 2012

The main symptom of Rotor syndrome is jaundice caused by a buildup of a substance known as conjugated bilirubin. Bilirubin is a yellow substance generated in large quantities when the body recycles red blood cells. It is ...

NASA Tweaks Tech Toolbox to Capture Tricky Rotor Results

Jun 07, 2010

( -- "Smooth" and "quiet" are two words not usually associated with a helicopter ride, but NASA is working to change that. A full-size UH-60A Blackhawk helicopter rotor was the subject of tests ...

Researchers build a tougher, lighter wind turbine blade

Aug 30, 2011

Efforts to build larger wind turbines able to capture more energy from the air are stymied by the weight of blades. A Case Western Reserve University researcher has built a prototype blade that is substantially lighter and ...

Extreme testing for rotor blades

Apr 01, 2011

Wind turbines are growing bigger and bigger – the diameter of their rotor blades could soon reach 180 meters. But that creates a need for larger test rigs capable of accommodating the blades for load ...

Recommended for you

Team develops faster, higher quality 3-D camera

Apr 24, 2015

When Microsoft released the Kinect for Xbox in November 2010, it transformed the video game industry. The most inexpensive 3-D camera to date, the Kinect bypassed the need for joysticks and controllers by ...

Researchers finding applications for tough spinel ceramic

Apr 24, 2015

Imagine a glass window that's tough like armor, a camera lens that doesn't get scratched in a sand storm, or a smart phone that doesn't break when dropped. Except it's not glass, it's a special ceramic called ...

Classroom acoustics for architects

Apr 23, 2015

The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) has published a free online booklet for architects to aid in the application of ANSI/ASA S12.60-2010/Part 1-American National Standard Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.